For a Thanksgiving turkey with a surprising flavor profile, head outdoors (weather permitting) to transform your grill into a smoker. Slow-cooking your bird barbecue-style also frees up oven space for the remainder of the meal. Plus, sipping bourbon and catching up with family and friends out back is a great way to pass the appetizer hour. You’ll need a charcoal grill to turn into a smoker (or better yet, if you have a smoker, use it). You will also need long heatproof tongs, matches or a lighter, newspaper, 1 disposable aluminum 11-by-6-by-3-inch loaf pan, 2 disposable aluminum 8-inch square pans, a baking sheet, 2 oven mitts, 2 buckets of water (one to soak the wood chips and the other to refill the aluminum loaf pan), an oven thermometer, and a meat thermometer. Twine or string is useful for tying the legs together, and you will need a 4-gallon container or larger for brining the turkey. A chimney starter is handy for lighting charcoal.
Lump charcoal is preferred because the charred pieces of wood burn hotter and cleaner than briquettes, uniform black pillows made from carbonized wood and a starchy binder. If you do buy briquettes, avoid the self-lighting ones, which are laden with chemicals. Buy pure, resin-free, bark-free wood chips. Choose your wood chips based on the origin of the ingredient you are smoking. For this turkey, we recommend apple, but hickory or any wood will do.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to start this recipe the night before by brining the turkey, then smoke the bird the next day. While you let it brine, throw together the rest of your feast, like our Apple Stuffing that takes about 40 minutes to prepare.
And see our Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide for more tips, tricks, and recipes.
To smoke the bird:
Prepare the grill. Remove the cooking grate and set it aside. Fill a chimney starter three-quarters of the way with charcoal; pour the unlit charcoal onto one side of the charcoal grate. Using tongs, stack the charcoal in a slight slope against the side of the grill bowl. Remove 1 cup of the wood chips from the water, shaking off any excess water, and lay the chips in the middle of the unlit charcoal. Fill the chimney again halfway with charcoal. Place the chimney on the charcoal grate next to the unlit coals. Twist two or three sheets of newspaper, form the twisted paper into rings, and place them under and inside the chimney. Light the newspaper through the holes at the bottom of the chimney. After about 5 minutes, the charcoal should be red and flames should have appeared toward the top of the chimney.
To make the gravy: